Examples of EPS consultancy services completed in 2020.

Severe upset in Fixed Bed Reformer unit

In January 2020 the catalyst in a Fixed Bed Reformer in an EU customer refinery suddenly showed a fast catalyst deactivation. The catalyst was near End Of Run conditions, but the unit also suffered an upset of the water and sulphur content in the feed. As it did not seem possible to run the unit for another two months until the planned catalyst regeneration EPS was urgently requested to provide on-site support with the troubleshooting.

The EPS specialist visited the refinery, and the Reformer catalyst deactivation appeared to have been mainly caused by a sulphur contamination through a leaking tube in an heat exchanger placed in the Reformer reactor effluent heating up the feed to a hydrotreater unit. When the operating pressure of the Powerformer was reduced, the pressure on the Reformer side was below the pressure on the hydrotreater side, allowing undesulphurised naphtha to enter into the Reformer through a leak in the Reformer effluent exchanger.

By increasing the Reformer operating pressure again the sulphur contamination disappeared, and the catalyst deactivation as stopped as well. The Reformer has been able to reach its planned catalyst regeneration in March 2020. The post regeneration performance of the unit is good and in line with expectation.


Assignment of a senior project manager

An EPS customer refinery is developing a project for a new process unit. At very short notice an experienced Project Manager was required, who could not be resourced internally. EPS made a consultant available providing the required project management support which started on 9th December 2019 on a full-time basis. The project is progressing very well, and the assignment is expected to continue until end 2022.


FCC catalyst circulation problems

During a Turnaround in early 2018 the FCC in an EPS customer refinery had been revamped to (drastically) increase the coke burning capacity. Initially this revamp performed well, but by mid 2019 there were problems with the catalyst circulation and vibrations of the stripper standpipe. In November 2019 the EPS specialist visited the refinery and it appeared that catalyst fines were lost in the slurry, caused by malfunctioning of the reactor cyclones. The problems could be coped with, and the FCC continued operation until a power failure occurred in December 2019 causing a crash shutdown. The FCC was re-started but its performance became worse. The catalyst circulation was severely limited. EPS visited the refinery for a second time and concluded that the loss of fines could be attributed fully to malfunctioning of the cyclone separation section on the reactor side.

This situation posed two risks. First it was not well predictable for how long this situation could be maintained, and secondly the high fines content in the slurry implied an erosion risk for the slurry piping. In March 2020 the FCC was shut down for cleaning and repairing the cyclones which solved the problem.


Validation of furnace Tube Wall Temperature by IR survey

The three process furnaces of the CCR Reformer unit in an EPS customer refinery have undergone a major revamp during the Turnaround of end 2019. The number of tubes in the furnaces and the diameter of the headers have been increased. All tubes were provided with CETEK ceramic coating.

In 2019 EPS provided a set of new correlations for the prediction of the furnaces Tube Wall Temperature, which had been implemented in the refinery DCS system. The customer asked EPS to carry out an Infra-Red Thermographic survey with the new furnace configuration. EPS subcontracted the French firm CIAS to carry out this IR-survey in January 2020, and was on-site to supervise the activities and furnace firing. The impact of the ceramic coating on the measured outside tube temperature had to be taken into account. The validation has been successfully completed and the CCR Reformer is using the new correlations successfully.


Support with restructuring a refinery maintenance and reliability department

In January 2020 an EPS consultant visited an EPS customer refinery to provide support with a restructuring of their maintenance and reliability department. EPS had intense discussions with the newly appointed maintenance manager, which resulted in a good plan for the restructuring.


Assessment of alternative alkylation technologies

With a frequency of about five years, an EPS customer refinery has to inform their authorities on the development of alternative alkylation technologies with the ultimate goal to replace the HF catalyst in their HF Alkylation unit. As EPS has an independent technology position without ties to licensors, contractors or catalyst vendors, we were asked to provide a status update on the alternative alkylation technologies.

EPS contacted the licensors of the following four alkylation technologies in order to obtain the latest information on their technology and commercial applications:

  • CB&I for their AlkyClean technology
  • KBR for their K-SAAT technology
  • UOP and China University of Petroleum for their alkylation technology based on ionic liquids as a catalyst

A Non-Disclosure Agreement was signed in order to receive confidential information. The customer refinery was satisfied with the results and was able to provide an up-to-date status review of all presently available alkylation technologies to their authorities.


Design, Integrity and Operations review of a new refinery

Recently a new 300,000-b/d refinery and petrochemical complex has been started-up. After one year of operation a large explosion and fire occurred. The management decided to stop the refinery, and, amongst others, have external experts carry out a review of the design of the facilities.

EPS joined a team of experts to carry out to carry out a Design, Integrity and Operations Review of the refinery facilities. EPS carried out the design review of the CCR Reformer, Isomerisation unit, Cracked Naphtha Hydrotreater (Prime G+) and TAME units.


DeNOX for FCC flue gas

EPS is supporting an EU based company having specialist knowledge on DeNOx in power plants with the commercialisation of their DeNOx capabilities in oil refineries. EPS prepared an extensive note on the formation of NOx in the FCC regenerator offgas. We are working with an EPS customer refinery operating a DeNOx installation of their FCC unit with health check of their DeNOx installation on their FCC unit.


Remote monitoring of process units

During 2020 EPS is providing remote performance monitoring support of a CCR Platformer unit in an EPS customer refinery. This remote support is now ongoing for 5 years, and is still considered very useful by the customer.

Back to news